Posts tagged ‘traffic’

Sarcastic Secret: Signal Lights

By Chad Upton

Tickers, blinkers, indicators and flashers. They have many names, but only one purpose: to let people know your car is about to change course.

In most vehicles, a lever on the steering column moves up or down to activate flashing lights on either side of the car.

I suspect a lot of people don’t even know their car has such lights, but they’ve been standard on cars since cars.

Maybe it’s a confusing concept, so I’ll try to explain it in a straight forward manner: if you’re about to turn your steering wheel, put these lights on first.

I find that some people use signal lights like the horn. They know they’re there, but they only use them when they need you to move.

Most vehicles also have a way to put all four blinkers on at the same time. The vehicle manual may refer to these as “four way flashers” or “hazard lights” but a lot of people know these as “park anywhere lights.” Their understanding of this feature is, when you want to double park, park in a fire lane or any other no parking zone, these flashing lights give you temporary immunity from parking regulations.

In all seriousness, signal lights first appeared on cars in 1907, but weren’t patented until 1938. Some cars from the 1920s to 1950s used solid (non-blinking) retractable lights on the sides of the car, called a trafficators.

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Source: Wikipeda (Signal Lights)

Photo: Wikimedia (gnu free)

July 23, 2010 at 5:00 am 10 comments

Why Airplanes Don’t Always Fly in Straight Lines to Their Destination

If you’ve ever been on a flight equipped with a screen that shows the flight path, you might notice some zigs and zags that make your direct flight look like a scenic air tour. There are a number of reasons for this, but most of the time it comes down to Air Traffic Control (ATC).

Some people think that air traffic controllers are the guys that stand on the ground, waving lighted wands to guide the plane up to the gate. Those guys are actually part of the ground crew and they only have control over your flight for the last couple hundred feet before you reach the gate. The rest of the flight is controlled by someone else and it’s not the pilot.

The pilot flies the plane, but his course is being set by somebody on the ground. Those people are known as Air Traffic Controllers.

This system is a lot more complicated than it seems.

At the airport, the air traffic controllers sit up in the control tower. Those guys decide who gets to take off and land, which runways they use and when. They also direct planes that are moving around on the ground between gates and runways on the apron and taxiways. This aims to provide an organized flow of ground traffic and a safe flow of air traffic.

Once your plane has left the immediate area of the airport, the pilot must then communicate with a regional controller at an Area Control Center (ACC). If you’re on a long flight, you may get passed from one ACC to the next multiple times as you fly across the country.

Why? (more…)

February 17, 2010 at 2:39 am 13 comments

Sarcastic Secret #1: Walk Left Stand Right

This is my first Sarcastic Secret, so I should explain that this category is reserved for things that most people already know — things that shouldn’t be a secret, but remain unknown or unclear to some.

Standing is acceptable when you’re on an escalator or moving sidewalk,and sometimes unavoidable. But, standers should stay to the right and leave the left side open so others may pass. You wouldn’t block the left “passing” lane on the highway, and you shouldn’t block it on foot-ways either.

It’s common to see signs reminding people of this rule and I support the people at Detroit’s McNamara Terminal who take this rule very seriously — they painted a line down the center of the moving sidewalk along with the words “walk” and “stand” on the appropriate sides.

Although I took this photo in Detroit’s airport in April ’08, apparently Kansas City has similar dedication to the walk left stand right rule of order in their airport.

BrokenSecrets.com

SF Photo: ATIS547 (CC) | Sources: Juxtaexposed

December 23, 2009 at 1:28 am 2 comments

Change Traffic Lights Like a Fire Engine

Most cities employ a system by 3M called Opticom. There are sensors on the light standards; when a strobe light flashes at the right frequency in range of the sensor, the lights change color almost instantly.

Before I go into the details, I should mention that it is illegal in most places for unauthorized users to change traffic lights, but knowing about it is very interesting. There are even systems that have a warning light attached to them so you know an emergency vehicle is approaching the intersection.

Fire trucks and police cars have a light mounted on their roof, but volunteer service members usually have a hand-held device. If you look in the right place, you can buy one and possibly even get fined or arrested for trying to beat your best drive time.

There are even reports that a universal TV remote is powerful enough and capable of generating the right frequency to change the lights (see the video).

Photo by: Elventear (used under CC attribution)

BrokenSecrets.com

November 25, 2009 at 12:17 am 1 comment


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